Serious Business

All-Star Success Takes More Than Passion

It’s summer gift and gourmet market time, which means it’s time to recognize the annual GOURMET INSIDER® All-Stars.

As you read the three All-Star profiles in this issue, look for the individual nuances and other distinguishing attributes that reinforce their competitive differentiation in a crowded retail kitchenware marketplace. Look even closer for the common denominator that forms the unifying cornerstone for long-term success by this channel of independent retailers.

You’ll learn how Angela Skogen of Cooks on Main in Williston, ND, shares with her hometown community a zest for cooking seasoned with skills and insights gleaned from her time with Target.

How Brad and Karen Hughes of Cincinnati’s Artichoke have crafted a sophisticated, visually compelling and productive merchandising layout in a tight, 800-square-foot space.

And how Chris Wiedemer of Cooks’ World in Rochester, NY, has applied his zeal for research and collaboration to lift his confidence and success rate in implementing new products and concepts.

What these standout retailers have in common is the dexterity to balance personal instincts and influences that shape each store’s distinctive personality with unflappable business preparation and precision.

Successful veteran independent retailers today never abandoned such core values as passion, relationships, service, community and personalization that once set the foundation for virtually all types of stores before sweeping corporate retailing expansion and consolidation. Is it really surprising that the big chains are trying to recapture many of these values in an effort to stave off the e-commerce threat?

Even with all the up-close-and-personal qualities that play to the advantage of independent retailers, this is serious business. We all know of stores started by exuberant entrepreneurs with a real passion for a product or a lifestyle that failed because they lacked or underestimated the importance of strong backroom and front-of-house disciplines.

The margin of error for such miscalculation is even thinner these days. An independent specialty store, no matter how interesting and inviting it is, and no matter how enthusiastic the owner is, won’t survive a narrow view of the market, inflexibility and uneven business fundamentals.

Loyal shoppers in this channel don’t need to be startled by glaring change. Many prefer the familiarity and personal attention that help to authenticate a community kitchenware store as much as its product mix. But these consumers still expect a progressive retail experience cultivated from an effective balance of an owner’s personal instincts and business precision.

That’s something for every independent kitchenware storeowner to consider as they determine what they might have in common with this year’s Gourmet Insider All-Stars.

For Angela Skogen, Brad and Karen Hughes and Chris Wiedemer, passion defines so much of their stores’ identities and success. They also know that’s not enough.